Dear students of San Diego State,
I understand there’s been some controversy about the $50,000 raise approved for the new SDSU president, Elliot Hirshman, made on the same day a 12 percent tuition hike was approved for California State University students such as yourselves.
Before you grab your pitchforks and torches to storm the castle that is Hirshman’s new SDSU-appointed home, I’d like to stop and take a moment to make you realize the salary increase Hirshman received is nothing short of what he deserves.
During the past several years, SDSU has asserted itself as a top-contending California State University in both education and economic impact. Take a look at the numbers. SDSU is currently one of the top-grossing CSUs in the state. According to last year’s SDSU financial statements, our school reported its total net assets for 2009-10 as approximately $408 million, and that’s after removing more than $200 million in liabilities and obligation.
In addition, SDSU contributes greatly to the regional and state economies, sustaining more than 11,000 jobs and annual spending of more than $1.2 billion statewide, according to a CSU report last year.
Now compare those numbers with another CSU, such as CSU Monterey Bay, which happens to be my hometown. Last year, CSUMB reported its 2009-10 net assets at $280 million, more than $120 million less than SDSU’s net assets from the same year.
According to the CSU report previously mentioned, CSUMB’s contribution to the statewide economy is approximately $270 million, with about 2,300 jobs attributed to the university. That’s only a 22 percent average of the contribution SDSU makes to the state economy and job market.
So how much does the president of CSUMB, Dianne F. Harrison, have on the books as her annual salary? She makes $270,000 per year. That’s about 68 percent of what Hirshman was awarded as his new annual salary, including the additional $50,000 per year from SDSU Foundation sources.
Considering SDSU is a university that not only contributes more than 75 percent more per year to the statewide economy than CSUMB, but also reported more than 30 percent more net assets in 2009-10 than the other school did, it makes sense SDSU’s president would earn more than his CSUMB counterpart.
Now I realize Hirshman receives other perks, such as vehicle payment assistance and provided housing. That’s actually standard treatment for CSU presidents. In fact, approximately 48 percent of CSU presidents currently receive provided housing. The rest receive about $55,000 per year to help pay for housing, which pays for monthly mortgage or rent of $4,600.
Many large companies pay and perk their CEOs based not only on their job performances, but also the performance of their companies. If one company does better than another, the pay scale will typically reflect that. The same should be true for CSU presidential salaries. You can’t expect two universities with such different economic and employment impacts to pay their presidents the same. That would devalue the worth of SDSU as a top-contending California public university.
Believe me when I say SDSU is top contending. SDSU received more than 60,000 freshmen and transfer applications for Fall 2010, to fill only 6,000 slots, according to an article by SDSU Manager of Media Relations Gina Jacobs for the SDSU News Center. The average GPA for accepted incoming freshmen was 3.63, the highest GPA average the school has ever seen.
This year’s numbers are just as high, with an average 3.78 GPA for incoming freshmen and average SAT scores of more than 1100.
San Jose State University has the third highest paid president in the CSU system. President Mohammad H. Qayoumi has an annual salary of $328,000, with a year supplement of $25,000. Altogether that’s only approximately $43,000 less than Hirshman’s incoming salary.
SJSU received only 36,000 applications for Fall 2010, admitted more than 19,000 of those students and only had approximately 5,000 enroll for that semester. Those numbers pale in comparison with the amount of competition and excellence SDSU has.
SDSU provides a quality education at prices private university students are baffled by. Our alumni contribute more than $4.2 billion worth of earnings every year, resulting in about $6.5 billion in annual contributions to the state economy. That’s 36 percent of the entire CSU’s financial impact in California.
As the leader of such a financially and educationally vital institution, our president should be rightly compensated. The raise offered to Hirshman is exactly what he deserves as an incoming president to such a successful California public university. We should put our pitchforks down and be content with the raise instead of indignant.
—Beth Elderkin is a journalism senior.
— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.